Francis Carnac Brown.

Letters to and from the Government of Madras, relative to the disturbances in Canara, in April, 1837, with some explanatory notes. To which is prefixed a letter to the Honourable the Court of Directors of the East India Company online

. (page 9 of 19)
Online LibraryFrancis Carnac BrownLetters to and from the Government of Madras, relative to the disturbances in Canara, in April, 1837, with some explanatory notes. To which is prefixed a letter to the Honourable the Court of Directors of the East India Company → online text (page 9 of 19)
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boundless moral and political consequences which are growing out of,
and impending in both hemispheres, from the rigid and cruel adoption
of the very opposite one, defy alike human sagacity to trace, and human
fortitude calmly to scan. For if the whole recorded past be any guide
in conducting us to a knowledge of what the ways and the unerring
justice of Providence will assuredly be in time to come, retribution has
inscribed it in the opfening page of Great Britain, as fearfully and as
plainly as the handwriting on the wall, that in this system of impolicy, ra-
pacity, injustice, and oppression, pursued towards a mute and defence-
less people, are being sowed wide as the earth and irradicably deep, the
seeds of revolutions, of convulsions, and of events which, in the swift
maturity of time and the fulfilment of a laboured doom, must sap the
prosperity of this Queen of Nations, and lay all her greatness low.

" Then come it will, the day decreed by fate.
How my heart trembles as my tongue relates !
The day when thou, Imperial Troy ! shalt bend.
And see thy Heroes fall, thy Glories end I "

This vast and most melancholy subject, which saddens all the past
history of India, and darkens all the future with its portents, has, in
spite of myself, grown under my pen.

F. C. B.

[See Postscript at the end of the following Letters.]


&.C. Sec.

TELLICIIERTtY, Ji«j/ 31, 1837.



It has long been notoiiods to the vvell-inrorined
part of the community, European and Native, thiougliout
Canara and North Malabar, that the real nature of" the
events which have lately occurred in the former Province,
seems to be known to all but the Government. The alarm
and dismay* which were felt and exhibited at Manga-

* Relation given by Captain Burtsall, of the ship Eamont, on iiis
arrival from Mangalore at Tellicherry.

" On the 5lh of April, while standing into Mangalore, I was hailed by

Mr. , who said, he feared that Mangalore was in possession of

the insurgents, and the civilians and garrison massacred. Shortly
after, I saw several other boats pulling out. The Harbour-master and

Mr. came on board ; the former said the boat, in which the

ladies had embarked, had drifted ashore and gone to pieces, and that

the ladies had been all night on the beach. Mr. came from the

garrison ; he said the enemy were momentarily expected, and requested



lore, may possibly be held fo palliate the colouring that
was given to those events in the first official reports. But
the reign of such sentiments, one would hope, would have
been the briefest ; and upon their extinction, upon the
subsidence of even all imaginary alarm, one would suppose
that scores of official pens would have hastened to place
the plain, unvarnished truth before the Government; first,
from the obligations of duty; secondly, in order that no
generous precipitation should present the Government to
the world, as hurrying by its approval to identify itself
with a course of conduct which, since England has been
England, is believed to be nearly without parallel.

Sir, I know not how casuistry explains away this reserve,
whether under the name of a prudent reticence, or of a
discreet regard for the reputation of individuals, these in-
dividuals being public men, and their conduct public pro-
perty ; but this I know, that, in the language Englishmen
think and speak, such silence seems to be an unpardonable
tampering with the credulity of the Government; nor shall
it be said, while there is an Englishman on the spot cogni-
zant, as he believes, of the truth, and able to tell it, that
he also stood aloof, and countenanced by his privity the

aid. I went on shore with Messrs. and ; met two boats

containing and , and ladies ; directed them to the Eamont.

I afterwards met a boat, by which I wrote to my mate for the guns. Into

this Mr. got. At the mouth of the Backwater I met Mr. with

ladies in a state of very great alarm, ^^'e got to the position taken up by
the garrison at the very moment the lines (the Sepoy's huts) and some
houses were fired. Resistance was considered hopeless. The confusion on
shore vms great.

" On the 30th of March, three officers and 150 men, accompanied by

Messrs. and , went out to Pootoor, 40 miles distant, and

took possession of the traveller's bungalow. Large bodies of insur-
gents were on the heights. The party were besieged for two days, and
there being no hope of relief, and the water cut off, they retreated.
Tiiey were fired upon by the enemy from under cover, for about eighteen
miles ; tlie Subadar major, several Native officers, and about fifty men
were killed."


delusion which is eiiteitained on this very serious

The most leading; and marked amonoj the events I have
alluded to, that which doubtless made the greatest impres-
sion upon His Lordship in Council, as it at first made upon
all who heard of it, were the attacks on Mangalore, " by
6,000 or 12,000 rebels in arms ! " I will not trust myself
with saying one word, upon my own authority, of this
occurrence ; but shall here insert, verbatim, an account of
these attacks given by an eye witness, a native of Manga-
lore, in a letter to his father then residing in tiiis town,
an account intended only, as will be seen, for the informa-
tion and satisfaction of the writer's own family.

Mangalore, April 15, 1837.

My dear Father,

I know that you would have been glad if you
had heard from us earlier, and I regret that I could not
write before, because the post was shut to us up to the day
before yesterday, and yesterday we had no leisure to write,
having to attend to our duties. I hope, in God, that you
are doing well; as for us, every one at home is quite well,
thanks to the Almighty.

I have never thought that Mangalore would fall into
such distress. It is a pity to see Mangalore in its present
state. The greater part of the inhabitants have fled the
country. Several have lost their houses and property.
The best buildings at this place are reduced to ashes, and
every man complains that he has lost something. I shall
give a short account of all that passed here.

On Monday, the 3rd inst., while I was in Court, we re-
ceived information of the defeat of a detachment of Sepoys,
who went to Buntwal on the night of the preceding Friday,
on hearing of a disturbance there. At the same time we
heard that Coorg people were advancing upon the town of
Mangalore. This news alarmed the whole town, and every
individual was so anxious for his safety, that some went on


board Paltaniars, and others, who could not hire a vessel,
proceeded to the sea-sliore. Perliaps you will think we
were safe from the infection ; no, it was general.* We,
and some other families, among whom was that of our
neighbour ■ , procured a Pattamar, wherein we re-
mained from Monday night to Wednesday morning, intend-
ing to sail for sume neighbouring port, in case the enemy
should make an attack ui)on us. Every hour that we
were on board, we received information that "the devil
Apparampura was coming;" but one day and two nights
j)assed quietly without his making his appearance ; and
considering that the news were false, we began to be tired
of the Pattamar, particularly as the owners thereof, taking
advantage of the occasion, had raised the freight so much,
that each night cost us all about twelve rupees. We,
therefore, landed on Wednesday morning about eight
o'clock. We had scarcely arrived at home when we heard
that the Coorg people had marched as far as the other
side of the Oollaul river. To know whether this was true^
I ran to the Marine-yard; and after I saw them with my
own eyes, I did not lose a moment, but ran home, and gave
the information to every one. We removed all the move-
ables from the house, and placed them in the garden, that,
in the event of the house being fired, the property at least
should be saved ; we were afraid of the house, because the
Sub-collector's Cutcherry was near, and it was very probable
they would set fire to it. Within a quarter of an hour the

* A gentleman wrote, " I liave had a long conversation with a smart
fellow who quitted Mangalore on Wednesday. His account of the pro-
ceedings is deplorable, and evidently pretty correct. Not the least
attempt at ' bundobust' by proclamations and patroles of Peons, during
the two days and a half from the return of the Sepoys, till the attack
was made!"

An official report stated, tfuii for the three days previous, nearly the
whole of the Judge and Collector s establishments had quitted Man.
galore, " and that the duties of every department had ceased to be
■ petformed ! "


Coorg people appeared, and halted near uncle's house ; and
here they are said to have made a bow to the church (the
Roman Catholic Church), and a moment before the Coorg
people were seen in numbers about 2,000 near the signal
staff'; and, at the same time, we perceived several houses
on fire, and among them the large house of Mr. Sheffield.
The people then advanced as far as the Court-house (old),
and then the Sepoys, whom the number of the enemy had
perhaps frightened out of their wits, and who were going
up and down the Old Fort, as if at a loss of a proper place
to take their station, entered Mr. Hudleston's compound,
and an Officer with some Sepoys went to meet the enemy,
who had now arrived near the Barracks; while another
Officer followed his example, and proceeded with a few
Sepoys near the Mess-house, where he halted, and fired a
volley of balls at the men, who were ranged near uncle's
house ; one or two men fell on the spot, and the rest
immediately dispersed and ran different ways; but tiie
Sepoys followed them, and killed many. More than a
hundred fell in the river, while they were attempting to
cross it, the Sepoys firing from the shore into the boats.
Those who came as far as the Barracks from the Milagres
side likewise ran away, as soon as the Sepoys fired at them,
but few of them fell ; but the slaughter was very great
among those who came from the BoUar-road. I pity their
case ; they were mere Ryots, and were forcibly brought by
the Ringleaders ; and I heard from a boy, who lay wounded
on the road, that the greater [)art of the men were inoffen-
sive villagers, and that nothing but the fear of death at
the hands of the rebels, not only of themselves but of their
family, induced them to join in the insurrection. Among
them I even saw some who could not walk but with the
aid of a cane ; others had scarcely any instrument in their
hands but sticks and clubs ; and one of twenty was armed
with a matchlock, and some carried large coythas, or bill-
hooks. Yet they were setting up such alarming " coooks"


ur cries, tliat they frightened tlie town with it, more than
with their number of arms; and 1 think that that was
the best prowess of their military skill. But with all this,
and the extent of their number, they fled at the fire of a
few Sepoys,* who, had they known their courage before,
would not have suffered them to step into Mangalore;
but they thought they were the same that defeated
them at Buntwal. But that was a jungle and this a
plain. Of the second attack I have nothing more to
say, than that the Sepoys had more courage than before
their success on Wednesday ; the day of the second attack
was Friday, and we were at home on this day, but on
Monday we went near Pascoa's house. The fire of the
Sepoys did not last more than a quarter of an hour, and
soon the enemy retreated ; and since that day they have
not made their appearance again; and if they now make
another attack I should be very glad, for there is now suffi-
cient force here, and they will receive a good drubbing.
But I think he is not so foolish as to enter Mangalore now.
About 800 men with some guns arrived here on Wednes-
day last from Cannanore, and on Thursday we received
200 men with 60 cavalry men from Nuggur. Among those
who came from Cannanore, there are 200 Europeans ; and
this morninsf we have received a further reinforcement
from Bombay, consisting of 300 Sepoys; and 200 Euro-
peans are coming in the rear. Now we are not afraid, and
you must not have much concern about us.

I, and every one at home, request your blessing, &c. &c.

I remain
Your most obedient and affectionate Son,

TP •??• tF -w*

Excuse haste and the handwriting.

• A letter from Maugalore reported that, " after hard fighting, they
completely drove away the insurgents. Two guns landed from the
Eamont did tremendous execution." Of the two shots from the guns,
the Natives declare that one struck a tree, the other a house ; but the
report was quite enough, and sent " the rebels" scampering away.


Such, Sir, is the account given by this lad of the
attacks on Mangalore, on the 5th and 7th of April, 1837.
I request His Lordship in Council to pause upon the
graphic picture of the occurrences, as detailed by this
impartial witness, prejudiced, if at all, in favour of his
own townsmen, and of his own superiors, and to compare
it with the narratives which have been transmitted by
others. In this there is nothing meant for the eye of His
Lordship in Council, nor for the public ; the writer, a
Native, describes what he actually saw, and describes
it in his own words, to his own humble family circle. The
people of Mangalore have dwelt in profound peace for
nearly forty years ; their town is the seat of Government,
and the capital of the Province, populous, wealthy, and
civilized. I ask His Lordship in Council to think, for a
moment, upon the state of entire disorganization into
which this town was thrown, of the tenor into which its
inhabitants were suddenly plunged, of the utter insecurity
and defencelessness they all felt, when all those who
could, imitating the example set to them, deserted their
houses and property, and took refuge in boats and Patta-
mars, or fled miles away ; and this too, two ivhole days
and nights before the shadow of " a Coorg" was descried !
And when, at length, these formidable enemies did appear,
when these warriors, not one of whom had been seen since
the 2nd of April, did venture to come forth, with numbers
vastly augmented by success, even the writer of this letter,
who probably never saw 500 men assembled together in
a body, rates their whole number at 2,000, states that
only one in twenty had a matchlock, the rest bill-hooks,
sticks, and clubs, that the armed and the unarmed
trusted to their shouts, as their most terrible weapon,
that the greater part, poor Ryots, only waited for a dis-
charge of blank cartridge to fly to their homes in the
jungles, and that the whole body did Hy on the first volley
of ball from the Sepoys !

All these facts and occurrences, detailed by this eye-


witness to his family, indisputable and irrefragable as I
tinnly believe them to be, will appear incredible to His
Lordship in Council. Well may they so appear, and
would that they were incredible ! But the sequel remains
to be related, and I shall relate it the most succinctly I can.

" The Rebels," who compelled a party of 150 Sepoys to
retreat from Pootoor in the dead of night, were at most
170 or 200 men, armed with bad matchlocks, and pro-
vided with a scanty supply of wretched ammunition, and
about 200 or 300 Ryots, some of whom may have had
bows and arrows.

This fact is established by the testimony of Devap-
pah, the head Siieristedar of Canara,* who, with several
others, was captured by " the rebels " at Pootoor, and
remained with them nearly a month. But the same infor-
mation was given to me at this place on the 3rd of April,
by a respectable Koombla merchant, who had just arrived
from " the rebels." They had sent for him and for others
of the chief inhabitants, and asked them to join the rising;
their arms and numbers he and the rest then saw and

Satisfied with having driven the troops from their own
country, " the rebels" followed no further than Buntwal,
sixteen miles from Mangalore, the limit nearly of the
Jungle ; and no one who knows the people or the country
will suspect, that the former had any design of proceeding
further, even if the absence of all design were not clearly
proved by the fact, of not one of them having advanced
until the morning of the 5th.f On the 3d, I believe,

* Devappah and his companions were deserted by " the rebels" on
the advance of the Coorg Dewan, Bappoo. lie stated, on his return to
Mangalore, that they had not more than 200 stand of fire arms among

f The prisoners, on their capture, said in justification, that they were
invited to Mangalore by the towns'-people, who told them there was
plenty of treasure, and no troops to defend it. Whether the excuse


the unanimous resolution was taken, and all but unani-
mously subscribed in writing, by all the European func-
tionaries, of abandoning Mangalore, undefended, to its fate !*
Early on the morning of the 4t,h, the treasure (16,000
rupees, f not the powder with which the magazine was
filled) was marched for embarkation to the beach, amid the
bootings and revilings of the towns-people. Some of these
insulted, calumniated people demanded in the hearing of
the German Missionaries to be furnished with arms ; " they
would," they said, "defend the place,"J and received for
reply ; " Go, we can do nothing for you." A part of the
Sepoys, almost in open mutiny, to their infinite honour be
their conduct recorded, were actually embarked in boats,
and the whole of them, could boats have been got, would
have been embarked and, together with their Officers and
all the Europeans, would have arrived at Cannanore, the
Military Head Quarters of the two Provinces, eighty miles
distant, in the course of the same night, about twelve hours
before a single " rebel" appeared at Mangalore. § From
the want, however, of sufficient boats, the Sepoys were
obliged to be marched back to their Barracks ; such their
exultation, that one noble fellow rushed from the ranks,
and clasped his Officer in his arms!|| and Mangalore

be true or the reverse, their advance two dai/s (tfter sufficiently proves the
absence of all design on their part of approaching the town, previous to
its reported abandonment.

* See the official letter which follows, wherein this resolution was
reported to the Governor in Council, on the Gth of April.

f This is an error. The sum, I afterwards heard, was 80,000 rupees

X This circumstance was narrated by the Missionaries on their arri-
val at Cannanore. The treasure the towns-people would not suflTer to
be embarked, urging that they would have to answer for it to the rebels.

§ A party of ladies and children, sent from Mangalore on the 5th,
arrived that night at Tellicherry, ten miles further south than Cannanore.

II When the Sepoys were on the beach, and when in consequence of
the boats proving insufficient for them and for their families, the Bugle



was obliged to be defended. What defences were thrown
up, I know not. On the following morning, the 5th, the
witless "rebels," trusting to the correctness of the news of
the abandonment of the place, brought to them on the 4th,
and not dreaming that a single European or Sepoy remained,
advanced with shouts from Buntwal, as to a deserted town,
received one discharge of musquetry from a few Sepoys,
and instantly dispersed and fled. A part of them, in at-
ten)pting to cross the river, having landed lower down at
Oollaul, a suburb inhabited by Mapillas, were seized by
these unarmed Mapillas, stripped of whatever arms they
had and of every vestige of clothing but a Lungouty, or loin
cloth, and bidden " to go now and make war !"*

Such is declared to have been the passage of arms at
Mangalore, such the defence with which the name of His
Lordship in Council is associated in General Orders, record-
ing his encomiums^ on the gallantry displayed against

sounded the Recall, the joy and alacrity with which the men marched
back were unbounded.

* This scene was related at Teilicherry by some of the Hindoo inha-
bitants of Mangalore, witnesses of it.

t "Fort St. George, Mai/ 9, 1837. — His Excellency the Com-
mander-in-Chief having transmitted to GovernTuent, reports of the ope-
rations of the detachment lately commanded by , from the advance

to Pootoor, at the requisition of the Principal Collector, to the second
repulse of the large bodies of insurgents who attacked the town and
cantonment of Mangalore, the Right Hon. the Governor in Council has
much satisfaction in recording his approbation of the persevering gal-
lantry witii which the defence of that station was maintained against
repeated assaults by superior numbers, and in the uncertainty of being

reinforced or relieved ; a defence which reflects great credit upon ,

the European and native commissioned officers, and all ranks composing
the small body under his command. His Lordship in Council directs
tliat the favourable sentiments with which the Government are impressed,
by their steady and soldier-like conduct throughout service of so harass-
ing a nature, may be made known to the oflicers and men of the

regiment N. I. ; and His Excellency the Commander-in-Chief is re-
quested to call upon to furnish, for submission to Government, a

roll of those among tlie native commissioned officers, the non-commis-


the numerous assailants, 350 firelocks handled by dis-
ciplined men, against 200 matchlocks, 500 clubs, sticks,
and bill-hooks, and 10,000 shouts ! Such the exploit,
which can boast, I hear, of having received the individual
thanks of so distinguished a soldier as the Commander-
in-Chief! — Five thousand men in arms! The whole of
Canara could not produce them ! The Canarese are not
merely unvvarlike, and unused to, but they are wholly
averse to the use of arms* : and as to 5,000 armed men
issuing from the jungles of Bellarrypet and Soolia, unless
men with matchlocks grow there like forest trees, or the
poor creature, Kallianappa the Ilnd., could raise them from
the earth by a stamp of his foot, I can assure his Lord-
ship in Council they are a physical impossibility. Would
that the Commander-in-Chief could see a few of these
warriors, examine their arms and ammunition, and look at
them, loading and firing, with an Elephant for a mark !

But as a climax to all these incredible things. We, the
people of the country, We, the subjects of this Govern-
ment, have presented to us the spectacle, of the Officer who
commanded at Mangalore being the President, and some
of his brother Officers Members of the Court Martialf
now sitting there, and trying for their lives, the poor, igno-
rant, misguided wretches who, on the faith of the departure
of the Europeans and Sepoys, mustered up courage, and
came to see whither they had gone ! We see the Magis-
trate of Mangalore, the chief Civil Officer on the occasion,

sioned, and privates, whom he considers to have been particularly dis-
tinguished by their zeal and gallantry at Pootoor, during the retreat, and
in the defence of the cantonment at Mangalore."

* When those who took refuge in Tellicherry were asked, why,
instead of flying before such enemies as they described the insurgents to
be, " wild men from the jungle," they did not remain and defend their
houses and villages ; " Fight !" they exclaimed, " what do we know
about fighting ? We have no fire-arms, and if we had, we do not know
how to use them."

f The interpreter of the court was likewise an oflicer of the same corps.



committing capitally for the same oft'ence, before another
extraordinary Tribunal, others whom the summariness of
Martial law cannot reacli ! We see the Government, in
the case of the former prisoners, abdicating its dearest pre-
rogative of life and death, of justice and mercy, into the
hands of the Officer Commanding the Provinces! Good
God! Sir! what a horrible spectacle! Ilis Lordship in
Council does not know that public men, (there are most
honourable exceptions,) seemed to take leave, for many
days in April, of the senses God gave them ! Can I wish to
disparage an old officer like the Officer Commanding? But
is it not known that he, who has never been less secure from
attack at Cannanore than the Governor in Fort St. George,
wrote to a lady living within a few yards of a guard of
his Kegiment, that he could not answer for the safety of
her lamps, and advised their removal ? *

* The Officer Commanding the Provinces was empowered by the
Governor in Council to confirm the sentences passed upon the prisoners

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Online LibraryFrancis Carnac BrownLetters to and from the Government of Madras, relative to the disturbances in Canara, in April, 1837, with some explanatory notes. To which is prefixed a letter to the Honourable the Court of Directors of the East India Company → online text (page 9 of 19)